To the locals of La Union, Tsuyoshi Chu Takahashi is a surfing legend. The Japanese-born Chu has resided in the surfing capital of the Philippines since 2001 and has competed multiple times in the prestigious Men’s Longboard Tour to earn the respect of fellow athletes.
In 2017, Chu decided to step back from the competition scene and explore the idea of a totally different venture—one that would allow him to pay homage to his culture and share his love of food to the town he called home.
Enter Chu’s Diner, an unassuming yet inviting, tiny yet cozy izakaya nestled on the ground floor of The Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop & Viewing Deck. The only one of its kind in the booming commune, Chu’s Diner is the place to go for hefty, authentic Japanese cuisine and alcohol selections.
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Chu takes extra care to ensure his dining experience as authentic as possible. Ingredients are imported straight from the Far East. The diner, made mainly of wood and corrugated metal, is designed to replicate the bars you’d typically find on the streets of Japan. Inside the kitchen are Japanese chefs preparing orders.“ I want my customers to relax and enjoy fresh, delicious food. I want (them) leaving Chu’s diner 100% satisfied,” he said.
It also integrates surf elements here and there. Blue waves are drawn just behind the counter. Black and white photos of Chu surfing, as well as one of his partner, Los Bastardos actress and surfer Ana Abad Santos hang on the walls.
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From katsu curry and hot soba to sashimi plates and fresh poke bowls, the menu is heavily inspired by meals Chu is accustomed to and has tasted throughout his professional surfer days. “The (idea) is to provide delicious Japanese cuisine along with my favorite local dishes I learned to make during my travels around the world’s best surf spots like Hawaii, Mexico, Bali, and California,” he explained.
Running a food business has always been a dream of his. LU folk would frequent his house over the years because they enjoyed anything he’d prepare. Competing, however, prevented him from opening shop sooner. To see the diner finally come to life was like fate. “(When) my friends built the Great North West viewing deck, I felt it was time and a good space for me,” Chu reflected.
As busy as Chu is, the waters will always run in his blood. He still surfs, and famously taught his daughter PBB Otso hopeful Kiara Takahashi—who recently made a guest appearance on Tonight With Boy Abunda—how to when she moved back to the Philippines.
Chu prides himself for attracting foodies from all over the world. He can even call celebrities like Jericho Rosales and Kim Jones not just his patrons but friends. But La Union is just the beginning for this first-time restaurateur. “We plan to open two different types of Japanese restaurants this year,” he revealed. “Then I would like to open a Chu’s Diner in San Fernando and Baguio. We also plan to expand to Manila and other areas.”
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Photographs by Karen Garcia